Highlands Hammock is holding a National Public Lands Day event on Saturday, September 23 this year in conjunction with the nationwide event which is officially September 30. Three resource management service projects are scheduled. 1) Historic Trails Restoration will involve volunteers in clearing overgrown vegetation, downed branches, and removing any exotic, invasive vegetation from trails and/or alongside of them. Abandoned in the early 1940s, remnant trails in proximity to the Ancient Hammock Trail on the back side of the Loop Road are being restored as an ongoing resource management project. Volunteers will use brush cutters, loppers, and clippers to trim back trails and hand pull to remove and bag Caesar Weed and other exotic plants. The goal of this project is to restore and maintain these trails so they may be offered as an “off the beaten path” trek led by park rangers. Trail restoration requires moderate exertion. 2) Exotic Plant Removal will involve volunteers in removing exotic, invasive plants which include species such as Coral Ardisia and Caesar Weed. Volunteers will clear exotic vegetation by hand pulling, cutting with loppers and clippers, and bagging flowering or fruiting plants. Designated areas within the park that have been determined as the source of spread to other locales are being targeted this fall. Volunteers will be assigned specific areas where they will be removing plants including point source areas, areas of infestation, or areas around the Loop Road and/or on the trails where the natural wildlife habitat has been degraded. Removing exotic vegetation requires light to moderate exertion. 3) Trail Maintenance will involve volunteers in maintaining park trails. The Heartland Chapter of the Florida Trail Association has adopted this activity as a special project. Volunteers will use loppers and clippers to trim back protruding cabbage palm fronds and overhanging vines around the Loop Road and designated hiking trails. Volunteers will clear large downed fronds, small limbs and other tripping hazards from the trail paths. The goal of this activity is to prep the trails for increased visitation in the fall and winter. Trail maintenance requires light to moderate exertion. Additionally, a fourth service project will be offered on Sunday morning, September 24. 4) Cache In -Trash Out (CITO) is scheduled in conjunction with the Fifth Annual Hike & Seek Geocaching Event that will be held on September 23. The CITO will involve volunteers in park maintenance projects including painting the Music in the Park stage in the picnic area and the replacement of wooden park railings and the wooden benches of campfire circles in the Primitive Wilderness Campground. Volunteers will meet in the picnic area at 8:30 am. Please see Additional Information for participation requirements and other pertinent information. Visit www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC72MB3_hike-seek-5-0-a-land-remembered?guid=adf54c51-1882-452a-b9cb-3c007ffd536a for information about the many activities.
The regular park entry fees of $4.00 per single occupant vehicle and $6.00 per vehicle (up to eight people) are waived for National Public Lands Day volunteers.
Volunteers interested in participating are requested to sign up on or before Tuesday, September 19 by calling Highlands Hammock State Park at (863) 386- 6094 or by emailing Ranger Laura McMullen at firstname.lastname@example.org to better assist staff preparation. Equipment will be provided, but additional loppers and brush cutters from home are helpful. Volunteers are advised to wear sturdy shoes and protective clothing. Bring work gloves, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, water, cold drinks, and snacks. Please review the following participation requirement by clicking on the link EEC NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY. An hour or two of your time is greatly appreciated.